In 1903, George Horace Lorimer published a book entitled Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son. The letters were written by John Graham, the head of a meat-packing company in Chicago, to his son Pierrepont who had recently started his freshman year at Harvard. The letters themselves are chock-full of the practical wisdom, and pointed direction, of the love of a shrewd father who wants his son to become a man. In the very first letter, Graham writes this to his son:
I'm anxious that you should be a good scholar, but I’m more anxious that you should be a good clean man. And if you graduate with a sound conscience, I shan't care so much if there are a few holes in your Latin. There are two parts of a college education — the part that you get in the schoolroom from the professors, and the part that you get outside of it from the boys. That’s the really important part. For the first can only make you a scholar, while the second can make you a man.
The second part is what the last eight years of my life as a campus minister have been about. The part of college education that is more about character, about what the Bible calls "growth in grace," which includes both seeing the need for it, and learning to live to apply it to every area of life.
This is the part that makes every Christian parent of a college freshmen both excited and nervous. My kids aren't there quite yet, but I imagine watching your child go to college feels like watching a squirrel crossing the road. You find yourself cheering, hoping that they make it to the other side in one piece.
If I could write a letter to every incoming freshman who doesn't want to waste their college, I would want to say six things to them before they move to campus. It applies to their anxious parents, too.
1. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is learn.
One difficult part about college is being confronted with so many people who disagree with you, professors included. It's easy to get either disillusioned or overly defensive. Don't. One of the best ways a student can bear witness to Christ is to learn so well from those who disagree so that you can sympathize with their perspective, see things from their point of view, and express it as well as they could. No one will respect your disagreement with them unless they first feel you've understood them, even gleaned things from them. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to learn, especially from those with whom you disagree.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]